How One Former Refugee Uses His Story To Empower Change

07/14/2017 02:43 pm ET Updated Aug 16, 2017
Emad at a refugee camp in Thailand.
Emad at a refugee camp in Thailand.

Back in 2013, I met a man whose story captivated and inspired me. Dr. Emad Rahim is well-known for his social entrepreneurship work and for helping to grow the entrepreneurship ecosystem on university campuses across the country. After hearing his genocide story of surviving the Killing Fields of Cambodia, I interviewed him for my column.

By sharing his story of resilience and over overcoming challenges to high schools and college students throughout the country, he wants to help inspire people everywhere to turn their tragedies into their triumphs. He was recently awarded a Fulbright to conduct research on entrepreneurship and business education in Indonesia at the Universitas Ciputra. And, he is currently touring the U.S., observing business owners, meeting with government officials, participating in panels, and conduct presentations and lecturers on campus. I asked Emad to share some of his work here today.

Emad Rahim served as keynote speaker and mentor for the Summer Bridge Program at SUNY Onondaga Community College
Emad Rahim served as keynote speaker and mentor for the Summer Bridge Program at SUNY Onondaga Community College

Steve Mariotti: Your story still inspires me years after we first met. How do you use stories to make a difference?

Emad Rahim: You probably have heard people say that food and language brings people together, but it’s the stories they share over food that helps establish their relationship. Our personal stories tell people a lot about who we really are.

Great storytellers do an amazing job in painting you a picture of their life, places they visited, people they care about, and share their successes and challenges. Stories are contagious – once you start sharing your own experiences the people around you are often compelled to also share their story.

SM: What about empathy? You’ve said before that it is a powerful tool. How so?

ER: It is the nuance of our personal experiences that makes us unique and interesting, not our titles and credentials. In order to create positive change in our communities, we must be willing to share our story and embrace the personal experiences of others. It is the power of empathy that helps all of us to develop deeper levels of rapport and trust with people in our community.

I have gathered community residents across multiple cities, organized university-wide student groups, and rally union representatives and employees together to engage in dialogue circles using the power of empathy and trust. Our story can be the vehicle used to bring different communities together, to illustrate the power of tolerance and empathy, to inspire and motivate people to take action.

SM: Tell us about your S.A.L.T Model.

ER: Salt has always been highly regarded as a preservative and flavor enhancer and in many cultures, it was even considered a form of currency. The SALT model (Surviving, Adapting, Loving and Transforming) was used to help me overcome the adversities that I have faced in my life. In my book, Resilience - From Killing Fields to Boardroom: The S.A.L.T Effect, I share how the leadership principles of S.A.L.T. helped me to develop the courage, determination and perseverance that led to me becoming a multi-credentialed, highly-sought-after academic executive, educator, author, mentor, and my greatest joy, husband and father.

SM: What places or events are you appearing in the upcoming year that you want to share with everyone?

ER: I am proud to support the White Ribbon Campaign for Vera House. Vera House focuses on preventing domestic and sexual violence and other forms of abuse. The White Ribbon Campaign is led by men and encourages all members of the community to not be silent by confronting domestic and sexual violence issues. I am donating the royalties from sales of my book this month to Vera House.

Catch up with Emad at one of these upcoming events:

Hobart Will & Smith Colleges, Summer Program: July

American Islamic College, Guest Lecturer Series: July

Utica College’s Fall Speaking Series, Utica New York: September 7, 2017

Le Moyne College’s Fall Speaking Series, Syracuse New York: October 18, 2017

Tulane University, Freeman School of Business: Business Club: October 30, 2017

Lebanon Valley College, Guest Speaker’s Series: October

Visit www.EmadRahim.com for updates and location for the following events

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